Hunting on the move, or still-hunting, is commonly misunderstood as to what it is and how to go about it.
Contrary to the name, it involves stalking, not waiting for critters to come to you.
In my opinion it can lead to some of the most rewarding hunting experiences.
But it can also be the most frustrating.
I'd even go so far as to say it'll test your patience far greater than sitting in a stand all day.
This skill requires you to slow everything down - your walking speed, your sight, and even your breath.
But the payoffs go beyond the hunt itself.
This post will talk about a style of still-hunting that myself and the others I hunt with like to use while hunting in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
These techniques can be used on your next hunt wherever you are – and whether you choose to still-hunt or not, the principles are the same.
What I really hope for is to make your next hunt a richer experience.
Slow. It. Waaaay. Down.
Here is where the patience comes in.
How long does it take you to walk to the mailbox? From the parking lot into the grocery store? From your desk to the coffee machine?
Now take that same distance, but take 10, 20...30 times longer to cover it.
That's the speed you need to be walking while still-hunting.
The goal while still-hunting big game is to disturb the environment as little as possible, while being able to detect as much as possible. (We'll talk about my use of the word "detect" later.)
As you're creeping through the woods at a snails pace, you also want to stop and be still for long periods of time.
And when I say still I mean make all of your movements take just as long as walking does. Even turning your head to the side should be done at a painfully slow pace.
This combination of slow walking and long moments of perfect stillness allows us time to survey an entire area – from multiple angles and distances – while also giving nature time to settle in between sessions of walking.
Just this year I had been standing still for 45 minutes while still-hunting before realizing I was being watched by a mule deer.
Had I been huffing it through the woods, I likely wood have spooked her long before ever seeing her.
Side note: no, I didn't have a deer tag but growth as a hunter is all about learning from every experience that you can. (9 times out of 10 those experiences are mistakes.)
Walk Toe-Heel, Instead Of Heel-Toe
You see it all the time – the hunter walking through the woods as if he's trying to be silent while hunting on rice paper.
It doesn't work.
As a hunter, you're going to make noise. But so do big game animals.
So does anything living, breathing, and moving through the woods.
What you want to avoid is making rhythmic, human sounding noises. This includes your walking.
Big game know what predators, in this case humans, sound like. Anything that sounds like consistent, bipedal movement will tip them off.
But I'm a human? How can I not sound like a human when I walk?
Walking this way is similar to the way a deer, elk, or moose would walk, with their hooves making relatively light contact with the forest floor.
Leading with the toe also allows the ball of your foot to be more flexible in its response to what's underfoot like twigs or the dreaded dead tree branch.
If you find yourself entering in to a steady, rhythmic gait – or even if you snap some dead wood underfoot, take it as a sign to stop and be still.
Let the forrest settle.
And I hope this goes without saying, but avoid making sounds from with anything man-made, such as metal, hard plastic, velcro, or zippers.
Bottom line – brushing against a stump or lightly stepping on a pinecone probably wont blow up the rest of your day.
But marching in cadence (or that canteen banging against your hunting rifle) might.
Stop Trying To See
We see as all predators do – forward, and tightly focussed.
Take your average house-cat. How does it stalk something?
It pursues prey with eyes narrowed and every muscle relaxed, yet ready at a moment's notice to pounce.
We share with the cat, and all predators, having our eyes on the front of our head – designed to focus on a single thing.
Prey species like deer, elk, and moose are different in that they have eyes on the sides of their head – designed to detect motion.
As a defense, prey animals detect motion first, long before determining if what they detected is a threat.
When still-hunting, we need to adopt this prey-like method of seeing...
or as I like to think about it – a prey-like method of "detection."
Detect motion. Detect broken patterns. Then see your target.
This method goes against our natural predatory instinct, but still-hunting requires that we stop looking for what we're looking for.
Not confusing at all, right?
As predators we have a tendency to narrow our focus – with our brains and with our eyes, on what we're hunting (like the house-cat).
When we broaden that focus we can "slow down" our sight and movement detection becomes far easier.
Look away from this article for a second and look out into the distance.
Extend your arms out to your sides and slightly behind you.
Keeping your gaze out in the distance, start to slowly bring your arms around to the front of your body.
If you are relaxed with your vision, you'll detect the moment your hands come into view.
Your hands may not be fully in focus, and if they weren't attached to your body you probably wouldn't even know what they were...
but you detected motion.
Now you have the opportunity to slowly turn your head and identify what it is that you detected.
Similarly to motion, out brain can detect changes in patterns.
Typically forests have a narrow, vertical pattern to them (here on Earth anyway). A change in that pattern, something thick and horizontal, might just indicate the back of a large game animal.
It could also just be deadfall or a large stump. But it is important to start recognizing these anomalies and training your brain to notice them.
It is this type of sight, gained through practice, that allows you to more easily detect motion and changes in patterns...ultimately giving you the upper hand while still-hunting.
Know The Wind
Finally, walk into the wind.
Yes, this really should be rule #1.
But many hunters, especially those used to staying in a relatively insulated hunting blind, forget this cardinal rule.
I've heard stories of hunters drawing on clueless bucks 10 yards away, only to see them spring to life and take off because the wind shifted in the animals favor.
Deer, elk, moose...they have long noses for a reason, and they rely on them even more heavily than their eyes to detect trouble.
Everything you can do to prevent your scent from being detected is a must...and walking with the wind in your face is the easiest solution.
Beware of scent eliminators that mask your scent with fragrances.
Game animals have a much stronger sense of smell than humans and anything unnatural will be a sign to your prey that trouble is nearby.
Obviously scent control is what we hang our hat on here at NoStench® Hunting, but theres a good reason...it often means the difference between an empty or a full freezer.
My top 3 pieces of advice for still-hunting would be this:
Know what the wind is doing.
Look for motion or disruptions in patters. Not animals.
Take your time.
Don't just be in the woods, become more a part of the woods and you'll find that your hunting experience, whether you take an animal or not, will be heightened to new levels.